book ideas (was re making sense)

Michael Turner <>
Sat Feb 20 05:49:31 CET 2010

On 2/19/2010, "Geoff Biggs" <> wrote:

>8) A cookbook (I don't think any of the other options adequately covers
>this). The recipes books that O'Reilly produces for several languages
>are so immensely useful.

I second that.  There's a very useful level of conceptual granularity
that's "coarser" than that of "idiom", but still neither concretely
specific to an application domain nor quite as abstract as "software
pattern".  Cookbooks cover that ground.  This book might be an easy
one, since it's already mostly written, just scattered around in other

Joe's idea of business case studies (#6), I'd love that.  But it's
hard to get sources unmuzzled.  There might be a way to make it
book-length anyway.  It seems the main business case for Erlang/OTP is
robust scalability.  It's "insurance against becoming an overnight
success," in a way.  So wherever the Erlang-specific material is still
a little thin, you could fill it out with cases where Erlang might have
come in handy.

If you look at some recent sudden successes on the Web, they were
basically unintentional.

 - The ability of Myspace users to inject scripting onto their pages was
unintended (it could even have been construed as a kind of security
hole) but it really helped make Myspace take off, when users discovered
it and started decorating their pages with animations.

 - Facebook was supposed to be a closed, elite, Ivy league club -- but it
turned out everyone wanted to join that elite club.  It was ingenious
marketing by accident.

 - Twitter was limited to 140-character messages not by design but by SMS
protocols -- and this turned out to be a feature, in a way, not a bug. 
"Brevity is the soul of wit" met another nostrum: "If you can't make
something good, make something short."  It made wit shine while
diminishing dullness.

You just can't know whether you have the Next Big Thing.  Even if you do
have it, you could fumble it, and somebody else might be hot on your
heels, having burned through less capital than you did before you
stumbled across your accidental (and all-too-easily-emulated) success.
So write it in Erlang/OTP, just in case.

-michael turner

>On Fri, 19 Feb 2010 16:41 +0100, "Joe Armstrong" <>
>> I'd like to ask some pointed questions, the results will influene what
>> happens
>> next.
>> Can anybody point me to a good free survey site - I want to ask questions
>> and get a histogram of the replies. If we can first find out *what* you
>> want
>> we can then figure out *how* to achieve it.
>> The first question is about books. I can think of the following titles:
>>     1)  Real beginner - lower level than the Prag or O'reilly books,
>>     chatty
>>          tone
>>      2) Theory - a theory of concurrency oriented programming - why
>>          share-nothing agent programming is good. Design patterns.
>>          distributed algorithms. How does leadership election work, DHTs
>>          etc
>>          academic in tone.
>>      3) How to books - take one subsystem and document all the nitty
>> gritty stuff.
>>          Candidates
>>          - mnesia
>>          - yaws
>>          - ejabberd
>>         - asn1
>>          - [you name it]
>>      4) How to book, with emphasis on setup. Lots of details
>>          where to fetch, how to compile etc.
>>          (not generic - with sections for Ubuntu, OS-X and windows 7)
>>          one chapter/per topic
>>          - ejabberd
>>          - mochiweb
>>          - scalaris
>>          - nitrogen
>>          - [you name it]
>>      6) Case studies (business)
>>          Not sure if this is even possible.
>>          I'm thinking the business case behind sucessfull Erlang
>>          companies.
>>          What they did and why (technical stuff)
>>           This is the book I'd want to read - but much is still
>> commercially sensitive
>>      7) case studies (technical)
>>           How was X built and why? Give the history. What worked, what
>>           failed.
>>           Basically interviews with the lead developers of each X
>>           For X in
>>                yaws
>>                ejabberd
>>                [you name it]
>>      8) Other
>>           [you name it]
>> Comments
>>  4)  and 7) seem to be the easiest to produce - just decide on the
>>  chapters
>> (please suggest topics) and recruit one volunteer per chapter (no
>> problem with domain experts here) and an editor and some reviewers.
>> 3) is pretty difficult - very few people know everything about a
>> particular
>> sub-system - and even if they do might not want to spend thousands of
>> hours documenting it - sales would be small anyway (I suspect)
>> 1) and 2) are possible
>> 7) might make a nice web site - need not be a book
>> I'll put these question on a survey site, so people can vote, if somebody
>> can suggest one - or can we do this on the main erlang site???
>> Cheers
>> /Joe
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